There has been a lot of talk about content marketing in the for-profit world for quite some time, and I’m finally seeing nonprofits picking up on the lingo. But I don’t think most small to mid-size nonprofits are prepared to launch a content marketing campaign. Obviously you would first need to understand what it is and why you need it – I found a great definition from the Content Marketing Institute below plus a video from Interact Media (they are geared to for-profits but I’m sure you can see where to substitute “customer” with “donor” or “constituent”):
Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
Then you need to create a content marketing plan and implement it. Which is a lot of work. But I really don’t see any point in launching a content marketing plan if your website is not in order, and this is a common problem with nonprofits. Often, the nonprofit site doesn’t even have the BASIC content needed before you start adding in customized content specially targeted to your different audiences. So I’m outlining in a multi-part series, what your site should have before you delve into the heavy artillery. Starting with the About Us section.
The About Us Section
This section is far more important than people realize. Not important enough to have excerpts on the main page of your site but important because people give, volunteer, and participate in nonprofits that they know something about. This is your transparency area, a place where you let it all hang out (or most of it) in as flattering a presentation as possible to show credibility, expertise and the overall stability of your organization.
1. Core principles, mission, values, beliefs – whatever you want to call it, this is where it should be, NOT on your front page. And please don’t bore people to tears with massive volumes of text. Be as concise as possible and save the 20 page document for the boardroom or the government grant application.
2. History – every organization has a history – it might not have been all glitter and gold but lay it out there – with photos. Find old photos of the original founders, your first building, your first logo… anything interesting that shows where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished.
3. Staff information – if you have 200 staff then no, not everyone has to be listed here. But at least list your management staff and their contact info, and possibly a bio of your Executive Director. Don’t be afraid to put email addresses up there – there are easy ways to combat spam before it gets to you. Photos are a huge plus but they should be professional photos. Professional photographers are just not that expensive. And if done properly by a photographer you may even be able to use that tree out front. Or a brick wall and props.
4. Board information and bios. Contact info is not necessary here but you do want to show off who is supporting your organization so photos, titles, and BRIEF bios (give your board members a character limit that they have to stick to). At the very least, do a group photo and list below like the example. If you have only 3 board members and are embarrassed at the smallness of your organization then go out and get more board members, 3 is likely not enough anyway.
5. Accreditations, awards, memberships, associations – every nonprofit should have a brag page and I think it’s also important to have selected logos of some of these associations (if they look good) on the front page of your website. If you don’t have any awards yet, join membership organizations in your industry that will provide benefits and give you clout.
6. Partners – every organization should have at least one other entity (nonprofits or for-profits) that they collaborate with either for referrals, funding, in-kind donations or projects. These partners can really boost your credibility and you should all agree to exchange links/logos on each other’s websites.
7. Annual Report – every nonprofit should have an annual report, whether it’s the old-fashioned, expensive printed mini book or a one page flyer inserted into a direct mail appeal. Even if you don’t actually mail anything out, put something up on your website. At the very least it should include some kind of pie chart showing your last fiscal year’s expenditures broken out by program and administrative (with percentages if you don’t want to show the dollar amounts) and a listing of major accomplishments during that year. And at least one photo of a client and a brief client success story. Serious donors are going to look up your latest form 990 on Guidestar so you might as well provide a direct link to it.
8. Contact Us – either within this section or completely separate. This section should have an actual email address NOT a form – people don’t like filling out forms to contact you. Be nice and include a map and/or directions.